12th Malaysia Festival of the Mind in Kampar highlights the importance of mental literacy

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  • Thursday, 21 Jul 2016

FIVE-year-old Jinansh Vimesh Dedhia might be pint-sized, but the Indian national had a hall full of people stumped when he successfully solved three Rubik’s Cube puzzles under two minutes.

His cognitive talents do not stop there, as Jinansh was then required to showcase his excellent memory combined with his impressively quick calculating skills by looking at a screen that flashes a series of numbers rapidly.

Within less than five seconds, the boy added up all of the numbers and said the answer correctly out loud – and he did the same for a couple more series of numbers he was shown.

At the 12th Malaysia Festival of the Mind (Perak) that proudly advocates the importance of mental literacy among the public, another Indian national, 14-year-old Harshi Virendra Bhavsar, put on an equally remarkable show when she was given a shuffled deck of cards.

Under five minutes, she alerted the stage emcee that she had already taken a thorough look at all the cards.

Gwendolen (left) and mental calculation expert West Wong (right) interacting with a student on stage during the 12th Malaysia Festival of the Mind (Perak) at the Utar Perak campus in Kampar. — Photos: SAIFUL BAHRI

With the deck of cards held towards the audience and away from Harshi, she recited the order of every single card by naming the number and its suit, as well as successfully reciting the reverse order of the deck.

Both Harshi and Jinansh were trained at the Indian Cube Association, owned by world-renowned mental sports coach Gwendolen Noronha, also from India.

The 28-year-old is currently based in Mumbai and runs a firm called Child Intellectual Academy Pvt Ltd with her father Eusebius Noronha.

“Playing with a Rubik’s Cube has its mental benefits. Apart from being able to stimulate the brain, it also improves hand-eye coordination.

“This is where we give students something quick to pick up and master apart from teaching them calculations as well as improve their memory and their handwriting at the academy,” she told MetroPerak.

Gwendolen said anybody could pick up and learn how to solve a Rubik’s Cube given the right techniques and it does not require one to be a born genius.

“The demonstrations you saw by our students, especially Jinansh, who is only five years old, are a result of their training.

Dr Ling (right) presenting a souvenir to Dr Mah after launching the event at Utar Perak campus in Kampar.
Dr Ling (right) presenting a souvenir to Dr Mah after launching the event at Utar Perak campus in Kampar.

“When a child is at a pre-school age, you are still unable to categorise whether the child is smart or not, and yet you can see from the demonstrations that these young kids are able to pick up and master the techniques of solving a Rubik’s Cube.

“Geniuses are not born, they are made, and this happens the more you train your brain,” she said, adding that it should not take more than eight to 10 hours to complete learning the technique.

Gwendolen first showcased as a mental sports coach at the Mental Sports Olympics in Antalya, Turkey in 2012, where the Indian team won 33 medals and broke two world records.

She received the title World’s Best Mind Sports Coach from the World Mental Sports Olympic Federation during the award ceremony of the Mental Calculations World Cup in Dresden, Germany in 2014.

Despite receiving a number of accolades for her achievements in mental sports, Gwendolen revealed that she was not always good in mathematics, especially during her time as a high school student.

“I’ve never excelled in it throughout most of my schooling years. I always made a lot of mistakes even when it came to minor calculations.

“My dad was the one who pushed me to improve myself, telling me that I can never get it right if I sit and cry about it.

Harshi (right) reciting the order of a shuffled deck of cards.

“That was when I started figuring out mathematical patterns to know several speed calculation tricks,” she said.

As this happened more than 10 years ago when information about speed calculations on Google was still scarce, Gwendolen said she spent six to seven hours a day during her month-long vacation from school to “figure things out”.

“Different sets of questions required different approaches to solve them, and I had to push myself to keep doing exercises to get them right.

“I didn’t fully master the speed calculation technique until I was 19,” she said, adding that she did it all on her own.

After graduating from high school, Gwendolen expressed her interest in entrepreneurship to her father, and that was when both of them had the idea to modulate her speed calculation and memory techniques to teach them to students.

“I was also doing my diploma in graphology (the study of handwriting) at the time, and I saw it as another good technique to share with students in India.

“In our country, students have to sit through a lot of written exams and sometimes their writing is unintelligible because they are forced to write as fast as possible otherwise they wouldn’t be able to complete their paper in time.

“In learning graphology, I learned that there are many techniques to maintain one’s speed of writing while rendering it intelligible,” she said, believing that it was essential for all students to learn to write fast properly.

About 12 years after establishing her academy, Gwendolen said it was only two years ago that they decided to throw in the art of solving a Rubik’s Cube into the mix.

“We also like to combine them with our memory techniques, that is how we are able to teach our students to memorise the colour placement of the cubes and they are able to solve them without even needing to look at the cube,” she said.

Gwendolen was specially invited as a speaker to the festival at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (Utar) Perak campus in Kampar for two days over the last weekend.

Her talk was titled “Brainpower: Your Priceless Commodity”, while her workshop was called The Cubing Workshop.

This year’s festival was themed “Great Mind, Great Future,” with seven public talks and 14 workshops delivered by experts and professionals ready to introduce and promote various techniques and skills on improving mental literacy.

Each programme went on for an hour, in addition to booth exhibitions featuring mind games, a Mensa admission test (at a special fee) and mental literacy related products.

The festival, jointly organised by the Malaysia Mental Literacy Movement, Utar and Tunku Abdul Rahman University College, was launched by state executive councillor Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon.

Among those who were present were Utar council chairman Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik and his wife Toh Puan Ena Ling and Utar Planning and Development Committee advisor Tan Sri Hew See Tong.

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